Even though the NFL has entered the slowest period, the New England Patriots have been busy over the last two days. The team saw free agent running back LeGarrette Blount sign with the Philadelphia Eagles, while it released tight end Rob Housler and had two players in for visits.
Today, the reigning world champions continued working on their roster’s depth: According to a team press release, New England signed rookie defensive edge Deatrich Wise Jr., selected in the fourth round of this year’s draft, as well as center James Ferentz and tight end Sam Cotton. Additionally, the Patriots released guard Chris Barker.
New England picked Wise, who spent the entirety of his five-year college career at Arkansas, with the 131st selection of this year’s draft. Over the next few weeks, the 22-year old will fight for playing and practice time behind the Patriots’ returning edge defenders Trey Flower and Rob Ninkovich as well as fellow offseason acquisitions Kony Ealy and Derek Rivers.
Still, given his draft status and upside, Wise is projected to make the team’s 53-man roster. The same cannot be said for the other two players the Patriots signed today, who both appear to be camp bodies.
James Ferentz is a three-year NFL veteran. After a college career Iowa, under his father and former Bill Belichick assistant coach Kirk Ferentz, the 6’2, 285 lbs offensive lineman was signed by the Houston Texans as an undrafted rookie. After a year on Houston’s practice squad, the 27-year old joined the Denver Broncos, with whom he spent the next two years before being released two weeks ago.
Cotton, on the other hand, has no NFL experience. The former Nebraska Cornhusker went undrafted this year and has remained unsigned ever since. In his four years of collegiate football, the 23-year old caught 17 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns. While he does not bring the pedigree, his 6’5, 245 lbs frame and atheltic skills make him an intriguing developmental option.
In addition to signing three players, the Patriots also released veteran offensive lineman Chris Barker. The 26-year old, who entered the league as an undrafted rookie in 2013, has spent the last four years on and off New England’s roster and practice squad. While Barker never found a consistent role and appeared in only six games, he has earned two Super Bowl rings with the Patriots.
Due to today’s move, New England has one open spot left on its 90-man offseason roster.